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Saying Goodbye

17 Jan

My flight back “home” is tomorrow morning and I have so many feelings about my departure.  I feel happy that I will be getting back to my own apartment, sadness that I’m leaving the baby and my family…  That I won’t be able to see her get older and start walking and talking.  I feel regret about not being able to see a few friends I wanted to see before leaving.  I feel apprehensive and excited about getting back into the swing of things at school… starting a new semester trying to teach some kids, trying to work with a teacher who don’t seem to like me too much or at least doesn’t know the meaning of the words “team teaching”.

I think I’m just ready to get things back to normal.  It’s funny that after five months I feel like this has become my “normal” even though I’m still not used to climbing up and down five flights every day.  And I’m still not used to the trek up from the train station.  And I’m still not used to people gawking at me each and every place I go.  And I’m even still not used to the different foods I’m eating everyday.

I guess I’ve already become used to  hearing people all around me speak Japanese instead of Spanish/Chinese/Vietnamese/Tagalog/etc.  I’ve become used to studying Kanji daily.  I’m used to sleeping on a futon.  I’m used to taking three days to dry my clothes enough to wear them… they’re never fully dry, just “not too wet.”  I like living in Japan… for now.  I’ve embraced the differences for the most part.

I’m going home tomorrow and I guess I’m just excited and ready to get back to life as usual.

You Can’t Go Home Again, I Guess

12 Jan

I’ve been looking forward to visiting home for a while now.  I wasn’t around for the birth of the baby and I was excited to see the little bundle of life that was created inside of and birthed from my sister.  I was excited to see my parents.  I was excited to see my siblings who understand me like no one else.  I don’t know what happened, but when I got here, I felt so different.

I’ve been in Kobe for just 5 months now, but coming back I feel like an outsider.  Not from any negative feelings or sentiments from family; by no means.  Everyone seems so excited to have me back for a visit, but…. I dunno.  I can’t really put it into words, but I feel a little like I don’t belong.  Even more, I feel uncomfortable.

I wonder, have things really changed so much in my life that I feel like I’m on the outside looking in?  Is it because so much has happened while I’ve been gone that I feel out of the loop?  Is it that I’ve created a different world or part of my life that is completely separate from that of my family and I’m just not used to that experience?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family with my life; but I don’t know if the decisions I’ve made or will continue to make with my life will push me further away from them.  When a belief is not just a part of your personal thinking, but most of your cultural experience, what happens when you change things up a bit?

They will probably love me no matter what, but for me it casts a bit of a shadow over all the exciting visit.  Now, there is also apprehension and doubt.

I think I will try to just push all these thoughts aside and sort them when I go back to Japan; if that is even possible.

It’s also hard because I don’t have an outside person to talk to, not so much here in California.  The strongest non-familial relations I have right now are all in Kobe… on a 17-hour time difference, with school schedules and roaming charges to think about.

Yay 2009… this feels a bit like a punch in the emotional gut.

Favorite place to shop?

15 Nov

So being in Kobe I now have a disposable income.  I really never had that luxury in college, so I’m enjoying it while I can.  Kobe is known for its metropolitan atmosphere and fashion savvy… and also its bakeries, apparently; which would explain why nearly every other store downtown is a womens shop and about every fourth store is a bakery or parfait place – no lie.

Anyway, after being here a couple of months, I have realized what store I love to shop in most…. the Hyakuen! Hyaku En literally means 100yen and these stores are AWESOME!  My personal favorite chain is Daiso because sure, we have a few back home in the Bay Area, but for some reason, they don’t sell all the same stuff.  Daiso in America is a little more boring.

You can get so much stuff at a Hyakuen for so cheap!  Like, every element of home life exists in these places: plants and gardening, toys, food, pet supplies, stationary, home decorating, craft (knitting, sewing, crochet, etc.), cosmetics, etc. etc. etc.  A new Daiso just opened up near a train station one stop away from my neighborhood. I think everyone knows that’s pretty dangerous, haha!

I could waste so much time in there finding things I just realized I needed…

There are probably some “real” clothing stores I will come to love but for now, the Hyakuen is king.  I mean, I can buy 100% wool yarn for about 1 US dollar!  I worked in a fabric store and couldn’t even get a decent amount of acrylic for $1.  All you can get for a dollar back home is that weird eyelash crap that makes it look like you maimed and killed a muppet.

Anyway… yeah.

Just Epic

7 Nov

I almost couldn’t believe Obama won.  Friends were saying before the election that he had it clinched but I felt that there could always be that surprise move or something like that.  I didn’t want to say he clinched it because I believed just a little that it might jinx his chances, but I held out hope.  And I was happily surprised when he made history.

I only wished I could have been back home so I could dance in the streets of San Francisco and the Bay Area and cry and celebrate with any and everyone who wanted.  I’m glad I could witness this historic event so early in my lifetime but still be old enough to actively participate by voting and really be able to understand and almost taste the weight of this issue for my country.

Obama has a lot of cleaning up to do, but he will definitely have a lot of help.  I love my President-elect.

Kobe… The City, Not the Dude.

16 Aug

Pretty much everyone knows the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” but the images I saw online before I came do absolutely no justice to my new home. Kobe, while it may be hot and unbearably humid (for me) is ridiculously gorgeous.

It’s a big port city with a lot of shipping going in and out of Osaka Bay so there are cranes dotting the coastal edge of the city and when my flight was landing into Kobe I was surprised at how much it reminded me of the Bay Area.

A view of Kobe from the South

Kobe and Oakland

The cranes and ships at the water’s edge, the bay, the green hills as backdrop to downtown that you even have to drive through to get to the more suburban part of town on the other side. I didn’t get homesick, but I immediately felt like I would fit right in. My apartment is gorgeous, thanks to my predecessor, and it’s a great size with lots of space for entertaining; which I hope to do in a little while.

My Tatami-floored Living Room

My Tatami-floored Living Room

Dining Room

Dining Room

The first event I went to with a lot of the other ALTs was a fireworks show in Osaka. I have no idea why there were fireworks, but Osaka is only a short train ride away so I was down. Osaka was jam-packed full of people but we did find a decent plot of grass to camp out on.  I don’t know what’s up with the Japanese there, but they must LOVE tanning because half the Osaks I saw were darker than some of my family members!!!  When we walked by one group, they kept saying “sugoi!!!” (cool) a lot.  I thought it was so funny that they were so interested in us.  It was sugoi, though because I love talking to Japanese people… especially the little kids, they just FREAK OUT when I speak to them on the trains or in a department store…. be it in Japanese or English!

After a few hours, though, the Osaka skies changed and pretty soon lightning we’d seen far off in the distance got closer and closer to us, was accompanied by thunder, and very quickly broke into a rain shower.

The group quickly picked up our tarps and everyone huddled together on the ground trying to stay out of the rain because we hadn’t thought of bringing umbrellas, even though it seems to rain quite often here in Japan during the summer. After a while, though, my legs were hurting from crouching under the tarp, so I just said, “forget it” and came out from under the tarp and stood in the rain for a while and soon after that the fireworks started (yeah, they did them anyway, rain and all) then everyone else just stood in little clusters under different tarps watching the show. I’ve never watched a fireworks show in the rain and I was soaked, but it was AWESOME!

After the show was over, a few of us wanted to go do karaoke but didn’t want to wait in the giant line of people exiting the place, so we scaled a wall, ran down a grassy slope that was slicker than normal because of the rain, and headed back to Kobe and belted out some awesome tunes. Climbing that wall I felt like someone crossing a border wall or something because it was pretty steep, we all got kinda messy, but it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The rest of the week was relatively mild: hoofing it all over Sannomiya and downtown Kobe learning where stuff is, touring a jr. high school, and 4 straight days of Japanese lessons. I also had a monstrously difficult banking situation for several days that got resolved the other day, but it made me angry because no one at any bank branch at home explained international banking laws to me and kept saying that things would be the same in both countries, even after I told several people that I would be moving out of the country and would not be doing many transactions from the States. Stupid bank.

There was also a food party hosted by one of the ALTs in my neighborhood. The great thing about Kobe is that there is a fantastic cultural mix, so there are people not only from the States, but also from Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, and more. Since there are so many different people here, another girl from the States and myself decided to introduce people to the S’more.

The S'more

The Smore

First, I’d asked if people from other countries knew what it was. When I explained that it was melted marshmallow on top of a bit of chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers there were some mixed reactions. Then after explaining to them what a graham cracker was, some people said it sounded awfully sugary, which, admittedly, it is. But I also explained that most people generally only have one s’more in a single sitting.

At the party I thought, “Hey, maybe this is not the greatest stereotype to reinforce about people from the States: that we love sugary snacks that could easily make you diabetic. But that was before an Aussie guy walked in with a plate of “Fairy Bread” and the girl from New Zealand shrieked in delight.

Fairy Bread... an Aussie and Kiwi favorite

Fairy Bread... an Aussie and Kiwi favorite

Everyone from the U.S. was like, “what the *heck* is ‘Fairy Bread’?” Basically it’s a piece of buttered bread with colored sprinkles on it. It’s good, but I laughed so hard when bread-lovers talked about how you’d be the most popular kid in elementary school if your mom brought in Fairy Bread for snacks or something. No one from back home would even try to bring s’mores as a class snack because everyone sort of agreed it was just too much sugar! But it was hilarious.

That incident is one of the many examples of why I know I’m gonna like it here *humming Annie soundtrack* People seem really easy to get along with here. Not everyone gets along with everyone else, but I haven’t had any problems, so yay!

Today I’m just going to keep in mellow, probably stay in my neighborhood, do laundry, watch a movie, etc. Hopefully I can update soon; next week is summer school and I know that’s going to be hilarious.

P.S. Here’s a link to some pictures I took with my phone.

The Party

23 Jul

The going away party was cool. Very low-key, just what I wanted and I was glad for the people that came out. I had a nice time. Here are some shots, I’m gonna go to bed.

Party

Indiana Jones at the Solano Drive-In

22 May

Two towns over, where I used to live, there’s a Drive In movie theatre.  I used to go a lot with friends and stuff back in high school and then in 2005 they didn’t open it up for another season.  Needless to say, we were all sort of bummed.  I had even heard they were thinking of bull-dozing it and building a Wal-Mart there… God knows we didn’t need another one of those.

So anyway, last year Westwind bought the Solano Drive In, re-paved the two lots, showed some other much-needed love and car, and opened the joint back up.  I didn’t get to go last summer but I made it a point to go this year before I leave.  Tonight a bunch of us went and saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  I was not disappointed at all.  It was true to the essence of the first 3 movies in terms of humor, dialogue, plot twists, obstacles, and fight scenes.  Except for in this one there seemed to be more longer fights.

Im not going to spoil anything for you, I just want to say that Harrison Ford did a great job, Shia LeBeouf is fantastic (I was already a fan, but this just won him so many more points with me), and I think Cate Blanchett was both lovely and funny as the villainess.  If you are a fan of the original trilogy, I highly recommend you see this one.

Now at the Drive In you get two first-run movies for $6.75.  You can’t beat that price at all, the second feature that was paired with Indy was Speed Racer.  I don’t think I’d enjoy the overly-CGI flick, plus I used to watch the original cartoon as a kid and felt like I might be disappointed with the remake.  And on top of that, I was tired and I have to wake up sorta early tomorrow, so I just came home early.  But whatever.

All in all, it was a fun night… next time I really have to get some video footage of the Drive In to show everyone.  But I’m hella tired, so… peace out!